Crypto Escape Rooms – The Cursed Temple [Review]

Wrath of a God

Location:  Newmarket, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Cursed Temple was a well-executed tomb raid in the vein of Indiana Jones.

At 2 years old, The Cursed Temple was hardly a relic… but it wasn’t on the same level as Crypto Escape Rooms’ more recent creation, Below Zero. It established an interesting story, but didn’t see it through fully. It had strong puzzles that didn’t integrate quite as fully as those in the newer game in Crypto’s stable.

If you only have time for one game at Crypto, make it Below Zero. That said, I’d encourage you to start with The Cursed Temple. It’s well worth playing. I can’t wait to see what this company cooks up next.

In-game: a series of crates with artifacts in them.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Some really innovative puzzles
  • Strong set design

Story

Many explorers had attempted to attain Amon Kha’s cursed treasure. None had lived to tell the tale.

We had decided to go treasure hunting.

In-game: a shrine with mask carvings.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Setting

Crypto Escape Rooms’ The Cursed Temple sent us on an adventure through an Indiana Jones-esque archeological dig. The environment was designed from floor to ceiling with a wide variety of textures and a lot of details to enjoy.

In-game: A worn wooden door with a bloody handprint beside it.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Gameplay

Crypto Escape Rooms’ The Cursed Temple was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, observing, and making connections.

Analysis

The Cursed Temple’s set looked great. The inclusion of more archeological dig elements along with the temple ruins added a lot of flavor.

➖ There were some sound issues. The sound was muddy and concentrated in the wrong places. This was unfortunate because it seemed like Crypto Escape Rooms put a lot into the sound design.

➕ The puzzles were strong. One group solve really shined.

➕ Technology was cleverly integrated into the experience. Crypto Escape Room’s statue concept was revolutionary.

➕/➖ Crypto Escape Rooms established the groundwork for an interesting story. There was a beginning and an end… but too much of the story was lost in middle.

➕/➖ The final boss fight was conceptually fantastic. However, it needed a bit more to feel like a true event.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: Crypto Escape Rooms has a parking lot.

Book your hour with Crypto Escape Rooms’ The Cursed Temple, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Crypto Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Games Canada – Pathogen [Review]

l33t h4x0r

Location:  North York, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28.32 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push to Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Pathogen was a technology-forward escape game with a lot of interesting things going on (not all of them visible to the player).

From puzzles, to set, to story, this was an all-around solid escape room where no element truly soared above the others, and they all came together well.

In-game: A futuristic lab with a wall of animal test subjects.
Image via Escape Games Canada

Escape Games Canada creates interesting games. Some we love, some we question… but they’ve always been worth experiencing. Their latest game, Pathogen, was no exception. If you’re near Toronto, I absolutely recommend playing Pathogen.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Really interesting invisible tech (ask your gamemaster post-game)
  • Solid storytelling
  • Solid puzzles
  • Solid set design

Story

We were hackers and social engineers living in a corporatized cyberpunk dystopia. A shadow organization had hired us to break into a company and steal a weaponized virus.

In-game: A super computer surrounded by lasers.

Setting

We’d gained access to the towering headquarters of a major biotech corporation. Their office and lab setting had a slick, futuristic look with blue glow.

While it was both an office and a lab – two settings that I think are pretty tired – Escape Games Canada merged them with a unique aesthetic that made it feel interesting and worthy.

In-game: A hexagon made from multicolored glowing hexagons surrounded by lasers.
Image via Escape Games Canada

Gameplay

Escape Games Canada’s Pathogen was a standard escape room with a variable level of difficulty.

Pathogen automagically tunes the challenge level based on the team’s performance.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, observing, and making connections.

In-game: A futuristic elevator with a doorway labeled "Level 1"
Image via Escape Games Canada

Analysis

➕ The opening sequence established a sense of setting, scale, and stakes. The extra details generally elevated the game.

➕ Automated difficulty tuning was really clever. I like that it adjusted without asking the players to self-evaluate their skill level, a thing that most teams cannot accurately do.

In-game: A computer console.
Image via Escape Games Canada

➕ Most of the puzzles had great onboarding, training us in the concept or interactions before hitting us with the real challenge.

➕ For our team, a communication puzzle stood out at the most enjoyable part of the experience.

➕ The middle of the game included a bit of physicality. It wasn’t particularly strenuous, but it was fun to physically engage with the game.

❓ While there were lots of buttons, switches, and screen interactions, there weren’t many props to pick up and handle. Some of the team felt like there was something missing. It didn’t really irk me, but I think that this is a fair criticism. It comes down to what you’re looking for out of an escape game.

In-game: A touch screen with a molecular input.
Image via Escape Games Canada

➖ While it fit narratively, far too many moments centered on checking a computer screen and navigating its menus. All too often someone in the group felt like they were taking one for the team and going to the computer.

➕/➖ There was an interesting and challenging bonus puzzle in the middle of Pathogen. This was conceptually great. In practice, we were stymied by a lack of note-taking implements… and a blind timer that eventually terminated the puzzle. We still had time left at the end of the game, so I wish that we could have managed our own time a little more on this puzzle.

➕ The game had funny moments.

In-game: A futuristic lab.
Image via Escape Games Canada

➕ The vibe of the space did a lot more with an office and lab than we typically see.

➖/➕ Pathogen presented a mostly blind choice and it was frustrating having to choose with little context. That said, Escape Games Canada recovered well in their handling of the story’s conclusion.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: Escape Games Canada has a parking lot.
  • Food: There are plenty of food options nearby.
  • Accessibility: There are segments that require at least 2 or 3 players to crawl or exhibit agility.

Book your hour with Escape Games Canada’s Pathogen, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Games Canada comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Maze – The Curious Case of Cariboo Cameron [Review]

Gold digger?

Location:  Peterborough, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28.00 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape Maze’s world was set in a late 1800s, post-gold rush Canada. The company is on a farm and the games were built within a beautiful old barn.

The Curious Case of Cariboo Cameron was traditional, low-tech escape room gaming done right. Escape Maze knows their aesthetic and thoroughly sticks to it. Their puzzles ranged in difficulty and were generally well executed.

In-game: locked luggage and boxes.
Image via Escape Maze

Additionally, Escape Maze mines stories from Canada’s history for their games. That was great fun.

If I was going to ask for anything more, it would be a greater variety of interactions and deeper story integration.

If you love puzzling in charming environments, Escape Maze would be well worth a drive out into the Ontario countryside.

Who is this for?

  • Scenery snobs
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The Escape Maze farm is incredible
  • Escape Maze’s 19th century aesthetic
  • Traditional escape room gaming executed really well

Story

Cariboo Cameron loved two things in life: gold and his wife. When his wife passed away, he continued traveling with her coffin. When Cameron entered customs in New York, his wife’s coffin curiously weighed in at 400 pounds.

This begged the question, what was in the coffin? We had to find out.

In-game: an old parlor in a barn. There are antiques all over and a headstone in the corner.
Image via Escape Maze

Setting

Escape Maze was built inside of an old barn on a sprawling, active farm. It was a gorgeous place.

The Curious Case of Cariboo Cameron, along with everything at Escape Maze, was set in the late 1800s. The gamespace was a log cabin with a very large, very heavy coffin in the middle of it.

In-game: A wall of antiques shot from high up.
Image via Escape Maze

Gameplay

Escape Maze’s The Curious Case of Cariboo Cameron was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, observing, and making connections.

In-game: A wall of newspaper clippings.
Image via Escape Maze

Analysis

➕ The farm and barn were beautiful. I wish that I had had a little more time to spend just taking it all in.

➕ Escape Maze had an all-around fantastic and unique aesthetic. This was a low-tech escape game accentuated by details and aesthetics.

➕/➖ There were a lot of great challenges in this puzzle-focused game. At the same time, however, it felt a little one-note. For the most part, we solved puzzles that opened locks.

➕ There was a simple, no-tech puzzle that I loved. It was one of those moments where I stopped everyone to show the team how a puzzle solved.

In-game: A large headstone.
Image via Escape Maze

➖ One puzzle was totally solvable, but we found how to approach it ambiguous. We collectively spent a ton of time getting the lay of the land on this puzzle and I don’t think it was worth it.

➕ The story was loosely woven into the game, but it was unique and amusing.

❓ Basically everything at Escape Maze was set in the late 1800s including the bathrooms outhouses. I thought that this was delightful… your opinion might vary.

Tips For Visiting

  • While traveling to Escape Maze, you might think, “there’s no way that there is an escape room out here.” When you think that, just keep driving.
  • Parking: Escape Maze has a parking lot.
  • Accessibility: The game doesn’t really have limitations, but it is set on a farm and getting around that space might prove difficult for those with mobility restrictions.

Book your hour with Escape Maze’s The Curious Case of Cariboo Cameron, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Maze comped our tickets for this game.

Omescape – Defend the Magic Academy [Review]

Confundus!

Location:  Scarborough, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: $37.50 CAD per player (save $3 with a social media check in)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Some of my favorite games to write about are the ones that I simultaneously loved and hated. Buckle up because Omescape’s Defend The Magic Academy was one of those bumpy rides.

I truly enjoyed Defend The Magic Academy’s puzzles and gameplay (with one musical exception). Omescape concluded the experience with a boss battle that really shined. This final sequence kept our whole team energized, engaged, and collaborating.

In-game: A fenced in area with strange waterfall made of pots.

Omescape’s minimal gamemaster staffing combined with a tech failure to result in a significant potion of this experience utterly collapsing. I cover it in detail below, but the bottom line is that Omescape charged a premium price for this escape game, but provided bargain-basement service.

Defend The Magic Academy was a highly recommended game among the Toronto player community; I can absolutely see why. Our play-though was plagued with a number of problems that probably don’t happen all of the time, but they happened in such spectacular fashion that it’s impossible to parse them from the experience.

If you’re in the area and looking for a strong puzzle game in a nice set, Defend The Magic Academy is worth playing with 4 people, no more, no less. I’m not convinced that it’s worth the extra money relative to some of the other top-tier games in the region, but it still offers a lot to love.

Who is this for?

  • Harry Potter fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Some strong puzzling moments
  • A great final sequence

Story

For ages, evil magical creatures had roamed the earth until they were sealed away with powerful magic. Centuries later the power containing that evil was weakening. As prime sorcerers of the academy, we had to gather our strength and spells to beat back the monsters and strengthen the seal that cast them out of our world.

In-game: The magic school's sign. You can see an array of glowing red LEDs below it.

Setting

We began our adventure in the Magic Academy’s courtyard and had to solve our way inside of the ancient building.

The set looked pretty good. It was large, well painted, and had a number of fun interactions. The overt technology stood out in a less-than-ideal way because it didn’t feel magical at all.

Gameplay

Omescape’s Defend the Magic Academy was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, observing, and making connections.

Analysis

➕ There was a lot to like in Defend The Magic Academy’s set.

➕/➖ I enjoyed the use of technology to represent magic. Unfortunately too many of these interactions looked and felt like technology, not magic. Omescape put little to no effort into concealing buttons and LEDs.

➕ I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. It had a fantastic assortment of challenges, including some novel takes on classic puzzle types.

➖ There was a color puzzle where there were significant mismatches in the coloration of the clues and the inputs.

➖ There was a complex and unhintable sound puzzle in this game. We didn’t have anyone on the team who excelled at this kind of challenge and it was made more difficult by the layout of the inputs. In the end, we had to ask the gamemaster to come in and just do it for us. I can think of a few ways that hinting, simplifying, or bypassing could have been possible without completely stopping the game.

➖ We encountered a tech failure that halted the game for a long time. On its own, this should not have a problem. This was compounded, however, by Omescape’s gamemastering and hinting model.

➖ For hints, we received a walkie-talkie (not a great delivery system for a magic game, but that’s beside the point). When we needed a hint we had to call out and identify which room we were in. The gamemaster then gave us our hint. It was clear to us that the gamemaster was responsible for managing multiple rooms and not watching us at all… thus never noticing the tech fail.

When I called out for a hint, the gamemaster just kept talking at us and telling us things that we had already figured out but couldn’t execute on because we were missing items due to the malfunction. Because we were over a walkie-talkie, I couldn’t speak back.

As the “hint” droned on and on, I eventually had to yell to get the gamemaster to stop speaking and realize what was actually going on. I basically never yell, and this was the first time that I’ve ever done so at escape room staff.

To be clear, I do not hold the gamemaster accountable for this failure. This is a failure of design and management. This is emblematic of a systemic business problem, not underperforming personnel.

➖ Yes, this was a 90-minute game. No, it didn’t feel premium relative to other top tier games in Toronto. If a company is going to charge top dollar for a premium game, I expect a dedicated gamemaster. It’s either premium or it isn’t.

Defend The Magic Academy concluded with an energetic and engaging boss battle. I absolutely loved this puzzle and the collaborative dynamic that it fostered in our team.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: Omescape has a parking lot.
  • Food: There are plenty of food options nearby.
  • Accessibility: There is a section that requires crawling, Omescape can bypass this segment for a player if needed.

Book your hour with Omescape’s Defend the Magic Academy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Looking Glass Adventures – Mystery at Maryweather Mansion [Review]

Study Egypt

Location:  Toronto, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 2-12; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 CAD per adult, $20 per child (under 13)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was not designed for me and my group. Looking Glass Adventures’ target market was younger families, as demonstrated by the changing tables in their bathrooms.

Considering their goal of producing family-friendly adventures that adults can enjoy, I think that they are doing a lovely job.

In-game: A cartoonish purple and green door.

Did I see anything mindblowing? No. However, Mystery at Maryweather Mansion had solid puzzle and set design with a few creative interactions.

If you’re a family in Toronto looking to introduce your children to puzzle adventures, this is a fantastic choice. If you’re an adult looking for a solid escape room with a few interesting interactions, you can absolutely find fun within Mystery at Maryweather Mansion. We did.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Families
  • Newbies

Why play?

  • Cute, clever puzzles
  • Approachable gameplay

Story

Renowned archeologist/ adventurer Ms. Maryweather was off on another one of her journeys when she heard a rumor that a rival archeologist was planning to steal her most prized possession from her mansion.

She contacted us, her loyal pupils, to sneak into her home, bypass her security, identify her most prized artifact, and hide it before it could be stolen.

In-game: A purple walled study with a couch flanked by table lamps.

Setting

Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was built around the main character’s study. It looked like a traditional escape room with a few added elements that reminded us that the room was targeted at children.

While most of the game looked typical, the final act had the most interesting aesthetic (and gameplay) twist.

In-game: A wooden desk with locks on the drawers.

Gameplay

Looking Glass Adventures’ Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was a standard escape room with a family-friendly level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, observing, and making connections.

In-game: a coat rack with a pair of hats and a handbag hanging from it.

Analysis

➕ The in-character delivery of hints was delightful.

➕ The story behind Mystery at Maryweather Mansion was light but solid. Above all, it didn’t come with a ton of reading.

➕ There were a couple of creative puzzles. My favorites made clever use of Ms. Maryweather’s artifacts.

In-game: A large antique radio beside a couch.

➖ One of the puzzles that I truly enjoyed the mechanics of also felt like it was missing a bit of clue structure. The solution was alluded to, but even after having derived the correct answer for all of the right reasons, we weren’t confident at all until we saw that it worked.

➖ The lighting was too low, especially for the amount of searching required of us. We probably would have had an easier time in this game if we’d had a kid or two searching about.

➕/❓ While the set wasn’t fancy by any measure, Looking Glass Adventures selected an achievable locale and did a fine job. If your game selection is motivated specifically by set design, there won’t be anything that blows your mind.

➖ There were a few locks that had seen a few too many adventures and deserved to retire.

➕ Looking Glass Adventures provided an amusing bonus puzzle after the main game concluded. They do this for speedy teams. This was delivered in-character with the same charm as the hints.

Tips For Visiting

  • Looking Glass Adventures requires at least 2 adults present in the room with a group of children.

Book your hour with Looking Glass Adventures’ Mystery at Maryweather Mansion, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Looking Glass Adventures provided media discounted tickets for this game.